Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Weddings; Facebook; Crossing Threads (A Eulogy)

My brother got married this weekend. Lots of Pomp, lots of Circumstance, lots of great food. The caterers made this herb dip to put on crackers, cream cheese and all types of dill, parsley, probably rosemary... amazing stuff. As for the wedding itself... it's like finishing a hand-knitted sweater. You know, the ones that your mother put on you to play out in the snow, the one's that remind you of Christmas, fireplaces, good food, relatives. And there's a reason for that. It's in the threads itself. The metaphor is as old as weaving itself, from the ancient Greeks' Fates to modern day quantum physics, we could each count ourselves as an individual thread, created and tied to our parents, our loved ones, and then split off to join other threads in this grand sweater. Think of each point in time that we live and then join them together in the cosmos of space-time. It becomes a line of moments, beginning and ending in this great jumbled up mess of a universe.

The threads run parallel, at all angles, and intersect, all in different directions. For some, we hope that we never see that thread again, and in others, the thought of a thread being torn away is heartbreaking. There's nothing we can do about some of it, with chance, or the hand of God maneuvering the threads of our lives hither. It's the merging of those threads together to make a stronger fabric, that is what a marriage ceremony is all about. A bed sheet with a high thread count is much more sturdy than a cheaper one, where holes can easily appear with a careless use of scissors. It is best to have a high thread count in our lives, no matter what you might ask of me in person.

So the wedding is a celebration of the merging of two threads. May they never depart from one another. Weddings are a thread attractor, pulling, charging the ions of threads to come together and intersect. It's this point that most weddings are sorely missing together. We have such little time in today's life to travel, to communicate with our friends and family, and so when those chances arise, let us take advantage of them. The days before and after a wedding should be filled with the get-togethers of friends that have not seen each other in years, family chats on front porches or kitchens like in times past. Let us not join threads for an instant, only to go off in our own directions, alone. We should linger, remembering, bringing the experiences of our lives together. It's the only way we'll learn. Let's make a wedding a week long experience, a celebration of our lives to that point, a re-dedication to friendships, loved ones. Let's not put off that phone call, that letter, that drive to the next town to see an old friend. Let's make the fabric of our lives strong, so that can never be ripped asunder.

 How do you find a thread in this busy world? So many people going about their lives without knowing what's going on. I've heard that sites like Facebook and Twitter are simply a waste of time, keeping people apart even while promising more communication. And while it would better to talk to people face to face, sometimes when you only have a few minutes, checking up on people's lives online is easier. It's the magic of Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is declining because people just post silly pictures of cats and messages now, instead of using as an instrument of communication. And when a thread is cut, Facebook (especially with the new Timeline idea, which I love.) becomes a portrait of someone's life. A virtual biography that will last as long as the Internet (or at least Facebook) does. They become those crosses on the side of the road, a plaque next to a statue. May they stay there for many generations.

A customer came up to me in Lifeway a few weeks ago and bought some devotionals, and I instantly recognized her. Many years ago, when my stepdad drove an ice cream truck, I went with him from time to time. On one of the stops, a mother would come out with her young son and buy ice cream, and she and my stepdad would talk about life and such. It made riding in an un-airconditioned truck worth it, to bring happiness to those in the community. The son's name was Eli Simpson. And so Mrs. Simpson would come up with Eli to the grocery store where I worked and buy groceries. I went over to their house one day to invite them to a new year's eve celebration at our church, and when I went into the kitchen, I found that Mrs. Simpson had saved all of the Snapple Elements bottles and put colored water in them. I have those same bottles on the top of a bookshelf in my room. I always remember that we had the same collection going. At the celebration at the skating rink, Eli was skating and fell, hitting his head on the side of the rink. Made a nasty gash on his head, and he had to go to the hospital and get some stitches. Don't think I ever saw them again after that, as I went off to college and then to the bookstores...etc...

So, back to Lifeway, I asked her how Eli was doing. She told me that he had killed himself about a year before. Shocked, I didn't know what to say. She said she wished we could go back to those days of innocence next to the ice cream truck. It saddened me, to think that someone that young and full of life was suddenly gone. So I tried to find what happened, some record of it. There was no obit. in the Rockdale Citizen, only a record of mischief in a police blotter. I finally found a record of his death in the funeral homes records online. I did find his Myspace page, with little activity past about a year ago.

I don't know what happened to him. Why his thread was cut short. I don't know how he grew up or what his life was like past getting ice cream. What is on Myspace is normal teenage banter, so there's nothing to learn from. Further, there is no record on there of his passing. So, as a eulogy for him, I leave this blog post with metatags so that anyone that searches for his name will find it, and they can leave memories of his life. For parents out there, never let your child's "thread" get too far from your own, and hug them and let them know they are loved. I know that Mrs. Simpson loved her son very much, no matter what trouble he got into. All this for a thread that only crossed mine a couple of times, but it is worth it. Those are the memories that make up our lives, that make creation whole. Let us remember them.

I leave this with a linked song from Spotify, since I cannot find it on Youtube. It is Stan Rogers' song "Delivery Delayed," sung by Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary. It suggests that, even when we are born, our lives have many births, whether religious or otherwise. In this song, we grow up, grow apart, and only are "delivered" when we reach out for the love of our parents, only to find it had always been there. A very powerful song, and fitting for this Eulogy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wild Places

I don't pretend to be an environmentalist.  Someone recycling cans could probably fund college through what I throw away.  I'm not going to make excuses for this; I'm too lazy to make the effort.  I remember listening to Rush Limbaugh on his radio broadcasts, where, during the event that has been called "Earth Hour," where everyone is supposed to turn off their lights for an hour to preserve energy / pay homage to "The Earth" (as if our power is some sort of ritual lamb were supposed to slaughter), Rush tells people he's gonna turn on all his lights.  I agree with him... I'd go buy those flood lights that rotate in the sky and pay a huge electric bill that month.  I really wouldn't do that, but I don't agree with the idea in the first place.  In fact, the whole idea of Environmentalism is about as complex as you can get.  If you would ask me my top 10 books, easily among them would be Henry David Thoreau's Walden.  Simply give me a log cabin out in the woods someplace, next to a river (and if I ever win the lottery, I've got one picked out), and an ultra-fast line to the Internet, and I'm all set.  I'll sit and watch the ants gather food for their hills.  You see, there's a distinct difference in loving Nature, wanting to treasure and relish in the glorious things of this world, and being an Environmental Activist.

I guess it goes back to political ideologies. It concerns how we want to govern our lives, how we see our contract with those who would govern over us.  Our relationship with our fellow man. At its core, Environmentalism is a genuine concern for our planet, with maintaining the beauty and wonder of the planet we live in.  While walking the trails at the SRCP (South Rockdale Community Park), along the South River, I've seen many empty beer cans, other pieces of trash, even a bag of Legos spilled out on the ground.  And at times, I've noticed the water itself has a green tinge that is probably caused by pollution upriver in Atlanta.  I am not saying that the SRCP and the South River are junky.... it is truly beautiful, as the pictures I've taken show.  It would take very little for volunteer groups to pick up what little trash is there.  It would take so little to recycle cans, to conserve water...etc...  We use a large bucket to collect the water that comes out of the compressor in our air conditioning system.  We could, if we had a garden, use it to water the plants and save on using water out of the hose.  It makes complete sense... except we don't have a garden to do that with.

The problem with Environmentalism lies in how you handle the problem.  Companies like Disney, who created a  "Friends for Change" program on TV, have used private funding to promote volunteer work from their clients.  Excellent job! Through individual efforts, so much can be done to promote conservation of our resources...etc...  However, it's when people decide that government regulation of large corporations and commercial regulations of such things as light bulbs, that I start to object.  At this point, the power is taken away from the individual and put in the hands of bureaucrats in the government.  It ceases to be about caring about the planet we live on and more about money, power, and status.  Environmentalists become identical to the private corporations they seek to drain power from.  And then I get turned off by the whole thing and start agreeing with the bombastic statements that Rush Limbaugh uses against the Environmental movement.

The Paradox comes into play here.  By that I mean the Libertarian paradox that states that limited government is ideal when the "ideal" is followed.  If every private corporation instituted measures to protect the environment, preserve resources...etc..., then no regulation would be necessary.  However, not every business is going to operate by what is right, as the desire for profit at the expense of those they are responsible to (including the customers, the Earth, their stockholders), will overcome the reasoning for self-regulation.  Thus the government is needed to assume such actions.  And it drives me nuts!  Because almost every issue runs up against the Paradox when "ideals" are brought to the table. I return to Thoreau at this point, reading his essay on Civil Disobedience, especially the last two paragraphs.  Well worth the look.

Now, jumping to my walks down the trails of the SRCP.  A song kept coming into my head, one by Peter, Paul, and Mary.  In 1982, they self-published a live concert album titled Such Is Love.  I originally found it in a used music store located by my grandmother's house in Oklahoma City. The cassette had never been opened, but what music it contained!  One of the tracks was "Wild Places."  It brings together the idea of protecting the Environment,


living along side the beautiful works that God made on this globe, and the idea that doing so is an act of devotion.  For the very fact that such beauty exists in this world, outside of our influence, is an argument that God created this aesthetically pleasing place for someone to enjoy.  Namely, us.  If we cannot take care of it, then it was a wasted effort on his part.  And since I know that this is a fallacy, since God is outside of time and error, then He expects us to enjoy the beauty He has given us.  And what better way than to walk down the trails of this land and witness the beauty of nature, as well as the monumental objects we have placed on this Earth.  I always get this feeling that we need to make God "proud" of us.  For He must have pride in those He loves (and by the fact that we were made in HIs image, we must have pride in the objects we create.)

The duplicate beauty of the trails I've walked is that it contains both God- and Man-made wonders.  Taking a scene from literature, Howard Roarke, in The Fountainhead stands on the hill outside of the architecture school and visualizes the magnificence he can create from simply the clay and rock around him.  A marvelous first scene of any book, in my opinion.  We create things on this Earth for our own convenience, and if we do this in a method which preserves the natural beauty of the world, or even enhances it, then we have used our talents in ways that God would approve.  We have created objects in our world that are good, just as He created this world.   So whenever I cross the hill and see towering before me the power lines that stretch to the far horizon, it is beautiful to me.  If only other people could see the aesthetics that I see.

On a related note, an article in Yahoo showed an design from Meridian 105 Architecture that would work perfectly with my idea of an apartment building that would conserve space and allow people to live in balance with Nature, with Commercial space below ground, and Educational and Religious structures in a vastly increased green space that would be created from the destruction of unneeded current buildings.  Check out more designs here!